Ben Carson

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Ben Carson
Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Carson speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2014.
BornBenjamin Solomon Carson
(1951-09-18) September 18, 1951 (age 63)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
FieldsPediatric Neurosurgery
InstitutionsJohns Hopkins Hospital
Alma materYale University (B.S.)
University of Michigan (M.D.)
Known forSeparation of conjoined twins
Conservative political commentary
Notable awardsPresidential Medal of Freedom (2008)
SpouseCandy Carson (m. 1975)
Children3 sons:
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Ben Carson
Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Carson speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2014.
BornBenjamin Solomon Carson
(1951-09-18) September 18, 1951 (age 63)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
FieldsPediatric Neurosurgery
InstitutionsJohns Hopkins Hospital
Alma materYale University (B.S.)
University of Michigan (M.D.)
Known forSeparation of conjoined twins
Conservative political commentary
Notable awardsPresidential Medal of Freedom (2008)
SpouseCandy Carson (m. 1975)
Children3 sons:

Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an American author and retired neurosurgeon. He is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. In 2008 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. After delivering a widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he became a popular conservative figure in political media for his views on social and political issues, spurring talk of his becoming a Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

Early life[edit]

Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Sonya (née Copeland), a Seventh-day Adventist, and Robert Solomon Carson, a Baptist Minister.[1] His parents were both from rural Georgia.[1] When he was 8 years old, his parents divorced and he and his 10-year-old brother, Curtis, were raised by their mother.[2] He attended Southwestern High School in Southwest Detroit and graduated from Yale University, where he majored in pre-med with a minor in psychology. He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.

Medical career[edit]

Dr. Ben Carson

Carson was a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, and he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.[3] At age 33, he became the youngest major division director in Johns Hopkins history, as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center.

According to Johns Hopkins Hospital literature, “Dr. Carson focuses on traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia. He is also interested in maximizing the intellectual potential of every child.”[3]

Carson believes his hand–eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning skills made him a gifted surgeon.[4] After medical school, he became a neurosurgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Starting off as an adult neurosurgeon, Carson became more interested in pediatrics. He believed that with children, “what you see is what you get,... when they’re in pain they clearly show it with a frown on their face or when they are happy they show it by smiling brightly.[4]

In 1987 Carson successfully separated conjoined twins, the Binder twins, who had been joined at the back of the head, making them craniopagus twins. The 50-member surgical team, led by Carson, worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and can now survive independently. As Carson said in an interview:

I was talking to a friend of mine, who was a cardiothoracic surgeon, who was the chief of the division, and I said, "You guys operate on the heart in babies, how do you keep them from exsanguinating" and he says, "Well, we put them in hypothermic arrest." I said, "Is there any reason that -- if we were doing a set of Siamese twins that were joined at the head -- that we couldn't put them into hypothermic arrest, at the appropriate time, when we're likely to lose a lot of blood?" and he said, "No." I said, "Wow, this is great." Then I said, "Why am I putting my time into this? I'm not going to see any Siamese twins." So I kind of forgot about it, and lo and behold, two months later, along came these doctors from Germany, presenting this case of Siamese twins. And, I was asked for my opinion, and I then began to explain the techniques that should be used, and how we would incorporate hypothermic arrest, and everybody said "Wow! That sounds like it might work." And, my colleagues and I, a few of us went over to Germany. We looked at the twins. We actually put in scalp expanders, and five months later we brought them over and did the operation, and lo and behold, it worked.[5]

Carson figured in the revival of the hemispherectomy, a drastic surgical procedure in which part or all of one hemisphere of the brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy. He refined the procedure in the 1980s, encouraged by Dr. John M. Freeman,[6] and performed it many times.[7][8]

In addition to his responsibilities at Johns Hopkins, he has served on the boards of the Kellogg Company, Costco, and the Academy of Achievement. He is an emeritus fellow of the Yale Corporation.

In March 2013, Carson announced he would retire as a surgeon, stating “I’d much rather quit when I'm at the top of my game, and there’s so many more things that can be done.”[9] His retirement became official on July 1, with Carson saying he would leave the decision of whether to go into politics “in the hands of God, but much can be done outside the political arena.” [10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Carson is a member of the American Academy of Achievement, and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. In 2000 he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[11] In 2008 the White House awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.[12] In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.[13] Carson has been awarded 38 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations.[14]


Carson at the Miami Book Fair International, 1991

Carson has written six bestselling[15] books published by Zondervan, an international Christian media and publishing company: Gifted Hands, Think Big, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, and America the Beautiful, and One Nation. The first book is an autobiography, and two are about his personal philosophies of success that incorporate hard work and a faith in God.

Carson’s book titled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was released by Zondervan in 1992.[16] A separate television movie with the same title premiered on TNT on February 7, 2009, with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role and Kimberly Elise portraying his mother.[17]

On July 8, 2013, Carson joined The Washington Times as a weekly opinion columnist, and also writes for a digital magazine aimed at conservative African-Americans, called American CurrentSee.[18]

Political affiliation, activities and views[edit]

Carson has said he is not a member of any political party. “If I were part of one, it would be called the Logic party, and it would be dedicated to commonsense approaches we all should be able to see.”[19] In his book America the Beautiful, Carson explained why he decided to get involved in politics: “I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena and help guide our country.”[20] He also said, “we [physicians] should be concerned not only about the health of individual patients, but also about the health of our entire society.”[21] Although he has largely expressed conservative viewpoints, Carson has also expressed some views at odds with most conservatives, such as supporting banning semi-automatic weapons in large cities. He has also stated, “There’s a reason for the Second Amendment; people do have the right to have weapons.”[22]

Criticism of health insurance companies[edit]

In a 1996 Megadiversities interview, he said: "The entire concept of for profits for the insurance companies makes absolutely no sense. 'I deny that you need care and I will make more money.' This is totally ridiculous. The first thing we need to do is get rid of for-profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care."[23] In 1992 Carson wrote "The most natural question is, who will pay for catastrophic health care? The answer: The government-run catastrophic health care fund. Such a fund would be supported by a mandatory contribution of 10 to 15 percent of the profits of each health insurance company, including managed care operations.[24]

Affirmative action[edit]

In 1999 Carson wrote:

A lot of people, including myself, have benefitted from affirmative action...and have, in fact, taken advantage of the opportunity it afforded them. And I think that is the best possible reason for advocating the continuation of some program that allows minorities to have opportunities and improved access to mainstream America.

I would love to hear people engage in a very different conversation—on how we might maintain the benefits of affirmative action but change it and even call it something else. We have to be smart, you see. What I would like to call it is compassionate action.[25]

Views on end of life care[edit]

In 1992 Carson wrote: "As our general population continues to age and as our technical abilities continue to improve we will find ourselves in a position of being able to keep most people alive...well beyond their 100th birthday. The question is "Should we do it simply because we can? It is well known that up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American's life are incurred during the last six months of life....rather than putting them in an intensive care unit, poking and prodding them, operating and testing them ad nauseam, why not allow them the dignity of dying in comfort, at home, with an attendant if necessary?...Decisions on who should be treated and who should not be treated would clearly require some national guidelines. [26]

Speech at National Prayer Breakfast addressing social and fiscal issues[edit]

Carson was the keynote speaker at the February 7, 2013, National Prayer Breakfast.[27] During his speech, Carson commented on several social and fiscal issues including political correctness, education, the national debt, health care, and taxation. On political correctness, Carson remarked: “PC is dangerous, because you see, this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression. And it [PC] muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them.” On education, he compared current graduation rates with those 200 years ago: “In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville came to our country ... anybody finishing the second grade was completely literate.” About healthcare: “Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account, to which money can be contributed, pretax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members.” Carson spoke favorably of the flat tax system, which he prefers to call the Proportional Tax based on the biblical principle of the tithe.[28]

The speech was magnified because Carson’s views were generally interpreted to be politically conservative, and President Barack Obama was sitting 10 feet away. Conservative commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto of Fox News praised the speech as speaking “truth to power.” The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed titled “Ben Carson for President,” which stated that Carson “may not be politically correct, but he's closer to correct than we've heard in years.” Columnist Star Parker wrote in a column that “Ben Carson owes no apology for honest talk.”[29] Fox News contributor Cal Thomas, however, opined that Carson’s remarks were inappropriate for the event and that he should apologize to President Obama.[30] Fox News pundit Bob Beckel also found Carson’s remarks inappropriate for the event, calling them “extreme right-wing talking points.”[31]

At White House in 2008 for award

In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Carson defended himself by saying, “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies.”[32] Carson appeared on the Fox News program Hannity on Friday, February 8, and was asked about a possible run for the White House. Carson responded: “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would.”[33]

After the National Prayer Breakfast speech, Carson told ABC News: “I don't think it was particularly political.... You know, I'm a physician. I like to diagnose things. And, you know, I’ve diagnosed some pretty, pretty significant issues that I think a lot of people resonate with.”[34] Regarding the policies of President Obama, he said: “There are a number of policies that I don’t believe lead to the growth of our nation and don't lead to the elevation of our nation. I don’t want to sit here and say all of his policies are bad. What I would like to see more often in this nation is an open and intelligent conversation, not people just casting aspersions at each other.”

Writing in National Review, Jonah Goldberg compared Carson to legendary African American leader Booker T. Washington.[35] Meanwhile, in The Atlantic, David Graham compared Carson to Herman Cain without the "personal skeletons."[36]

Following his sudden popularity among conservatives, Carson was a featured speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 16, 2013, and finished tied for seventh in the Washington Times/CPAC 2013 Straw Poll with 4 percent of the 3,000 ballots cast.[37][38] In the 2014 CPAC straw poll, he performed even better, coming in third place with 9 percent, behind senators Ted Cruz of Texas (with 11 percent) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (with 31 percent).[39]

Views on marriage and evolution[edit]

Carson described his opposition to same-sex marriage on Hannity, saying: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition.”[40] Carson’s comments drew criticism for equating gays with pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality. A group of Hopkins students circulated a petition asking that Carson be replaced as the university’s commencement speaker.[40][41]

Carson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that his comments were “completely taken out of context and completely misunderstood,” and also asserted on CNN’s "The Situation Room” that he loves all people, whether gay or straight.[40] Carson withdrew as Hopkins’s commencement speaker and apologized for the remarks, saying that “the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone,” adding that the Bible “says we have an obligation to love our fellow man as ourselves, and I love everybody the same—all homosexuals.”[41][42] Carson also said, “I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights anyone else has. I was trying to say that as far as marriage was concerned, it has traditionally been between a man and a woman and no one should be able to change that.”[43]

Carson’s views on evolution and creationism have also generated controversy.[44] In a 2006 debate with Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and Daniel Dennett, Carson stated: “I don’t believe in evolution .... I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what’s right and wrong, just appeared.”[45] In 2012 nearly 500 professors, students, and alumni of Emory University wrote a letter expressing concern about Carson’s views in advance of his commencement speech, although no request was made to rescind Carson’s invitation. In particular, they cited his quote in an Adventist Review interview where he said, “By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior.” Carson responded by clarifying his views, saying, “People who believe in survival of the fittest might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from. A lot of evolutionists are very ethical people.”[44]

Criticism of ObamaCare[edit]

On October 11, 2013, Carson spoke at the conservative Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., where he called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” In his speech, Carson claimed that the entire push for the legislation originated with Vladimir Lenin and quoted Lenin as saying that “socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of a socialist state.”[46] Lenin did not actually say this, although the purported quote appears on a number of conservative websites.[47][48] After being criticized for his comments, Carson wrote a Washington Times column on October 15 denying that he was “equating Obamacare with slavery” and criticizing the “PC police” for attempting “to discredit and ... silence” him. Carson also acknowledged that there was controversy over whether Lenin used the “exact words” quoted and said that “the larger point is that [Lenin] and his followers certainly subscribed to the philosophy symbolized by these words.”[49]

During the White House Prayer Breakfast, Carson commented on the ACA:

We’ve already started down the path to solving one of the other big problems, health care. We need to have good health care for everybody. It’s the most important thing that a person can have. Money means nothing, titles mean nothing when you don’t have your health, but we’ve got to figure out efficient ways to do it. We spend a lot of money on health care, twice as much per capita as anybody in else in the world, and yet not very efficient. What can we do?

Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA]."[50]

2016 presidential draft effort[edit]

Carson’s rise in the conservative movement and talks of a possible presidential run in 2016 have inspired a national movement to draft Carson for a presidential run for the Republican nomination, employing the catchphrase “Run, Ben, Run.”[51] The official organization is called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, founded by John Philip Sousa IV (a great grandson of John Philip Sousa). The movement has been following Carson’s activities and presidential ambitions, and citing his performance in major polls of conservative candidates, particularly an online poll in February 2014 of 62,000 conservative activists, where Carson came in third with 77% in a series of different match-ups (behind Rand Paul’s 80% and Ted Cruz’s 84%).[52] It has also served as the primary fundraiser for a potential campaign, with Sousa reporting on April 12 that the movement had raised over $4 million, and that a potential campaign apparatus, from television ads to mailing lists, had already been set up.[53] In an interview with The Weekly Standard in May 2014, Carson said that he was “warming up to the idea” of a presidential run, owing to people everywhere telling him that he should run, saying, “Because every place I go, it’s unbelievable ... and so I think I’m starting to hear something.”[54][55] In mid and late June of 2014, Carson appeared in his first national poll for the 2016 presidential election through Rasmussen. In a hypothetical match-up against Hillary Clinton, Carson tied with Rand Paul for the strongest showing out of any potential Republican nominee, trailing Clinton by only 7%.[56] At the end of June 2014, the Draft Committee reported that it had raised over $7 million from 91,000 donors.[57] On August 2, 2014, it was reported that Carson had officially approved the formation of his own Political Action Committee, named One Nation, and also appointed Texas businessman Terry Giles as chairman of a potential presidential campaign. Carson suggested that his final decision on whether or not to run will depend on the results of the 2014 midterms, and whether or not the Republicans will regain control of the U.S. Senate. This announcement came shortly after Sousa reported that the draft committee had raised yet another $1 million, resulting in $8 million raised overall.[58][59] On August 25, Carson won a large majority of the vote in the Iowa Polk County Straw Poll, with 62%; the next-highest candidate, Ted Cruz, won only 7%.[60]

Carson Scholars Fund[edit]

Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund in 1994. It gives scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities.” The fund began after they read a research study saying that out of 22 countries, the United States was next to last at No. 21 regarding science and math. Also, they noticed that many school display cases contained trophies rewarding the success of their sports teams, “while honor students only received a pin or certificate.” Those who succeed are given “a $1,000 scholarship to be invested toward their college education, along with a recognition package, and an invitation to attend an awards banquet.” The fund reports “five thousand seven hundred scholarships and counting.”[61][62]

Personal life[edit]

Carson and his wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin, met in 1971 as students at Yale University. They married in 1975 and have three sons: Ben Jr., Rhoeyce, and Murray. They live in West Friendship, Maryland and are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[63][64]



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